When Is a Hospital Liable for Injuring a Patient?
Hospital negligence occurs when a hospital employee injures a patient through a negligent act, error, or omission. However, determining whether it was the hospital or a doctor who was ultimately responsible can be a difficult task, and should not be attempted without the assistance of a skilled and experienced Ohio medical malpractice attorney.
Hospitals Are Rarely Liable for Physician Negligence
A common misconception is that hospitals are liable for the malpractice of an individual doctor. In many cases, doctors are not employees of a hospital. Instead, they may have admitting privileges at a hospital, but function as independent contractors. Negligence by a doctor does not necessarily mean that the hospital will be held liable.
In some cases, however, doctors are employees of the hospital. Determining whether a doctor is or is not employed by a hospital is a complicated question that you should only attempt to answer with the assistance of an experienced Ohio medical malpractice attorney.
This is just one reason why it’s important to have a skilled and experienced Ohio medical malpractice attorney on your side to investigate a possible claim against the individual doctor or doctors who was negligent, as well as whether there may be a case against the hospital.
Elements of Hospital Negligence
To qualify as hospital negligence, the following characteristics must be met:
- The hospital violated the standard of care. Certain standards are recognized as being acceptable medical treatment by a reasonably prudent healthcare professional under similar circumstances. A patient has the right to expect that hospitals and other healthcare providers will deliver care consistent with generally accepted standards. A failure to deliver care that meets these standards constitutes hospital negligence.
- The patient was injured by the hospital’s negligence. To have a valid claim, a patient must be able to prove that the error by the hospital caused an injury that the patient would not have suffered in the absence of negligence. An unfavorable outcome does not necessarily mean that negligence occurred. But if the injury was caused by the hospital’s negligence, a patient might have a case.
- Damages. To have a viable case, a patient must be able to show that he or she suffered significant damages as a result of the hospital’s mistake. Usually this means that the patient suffered disability, loss of income, pain, suffering, hardship, or past and future medical bills.
Types of Hospital Negligence
Hospital Employee Negligence
A hospital can be held liable for the negligence of its employees. Nurses, medical technicians, and support staff are usually employed by the hospital. If one of these employees was performing a job-related function (i.e. caring for a patient) and the patient was injured as a result, the hospital may be liable for the injury.
Depending on who was providing the service, examples of hospital negligence may include:
- Failure to diagnose or misdiagnosing an injury or illness
- Misreading or ignoring laboratory results
- Unnecessary surgery
- Surgical errors or wrong site surgery
- Improper medication or dosage
- Poor follow-up or aftercare
- Premature discharge
- Disregarding or not taking appropriate patient history
- Failure to order proper testing
- Failure to recognize symptoms
Negligent Hiring by the Hospital
The hospital may also be held liable if it failed to make reasonable inquiries when hiring staff. This may include keeping a physician on staff when the hospital knew or should have known that the doctor was incompetent or dangerous.
A hospital may also be negligent if it gives staff privileges to an incompetent doctor, or if the hospital knew or should have known that a particular physician was incompetent or dangerous.
For example, if a hospital knows that a doctor is addicted to drugs but the hospital nonetheless allows the doctor to continue admitting patients and having staff privileges, the hospital might be liable for the actions of the doctor.
Inadequate Hospital Staffing
Likewise, hospitals are required to ensure that there is sufficient medical staff on duty at all times to maintain quality patient care. If hospital understaffing resulted in a patient injury, the hospital may be held liable.
The hospital may also be held responsible if it appeared to the patient that the doctor was employed by a hospital. Many hospitals attempt to avoid this problem by informing patients on admissions forms that the doctor is not a hospital employee.
Injured Due to Hospital Negligence? Contact an Ohio Hospital Negligence Attorney Today
Winning a hospital negligence case can be very difficult. First and foremost, it’s important to know whether you need to sue the doctor, the hospital, individual hospital employees, or some combination of all of them.
If you or someone you love was injured due to hospital negligence, it’s important that you have a skilled and experienced Ohio medical malpractice attorney on your side.
Contact an Ohio medical malpractice attorney at Robenalt Law today to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case. Call 216-223-7535, complete our online form, or email [email protected].
Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing doctors and hospitals at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 20 years, he has used that experience to help victims and the families of those injured by negligent health care providers.